U.N. and Iraq reach deal on Iranian dissidents

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The United Nations and the Iraqi government have reached a deal to transfer more than 3,000 Iranian dissidents living in a camp north of Baghdad, potentially averting what international observers have warned would be a massacre.

Martin Kobler, the U.N. secretary-general’s special representative for Iraq, and Iraqi National Security Adviser Faleh Fayad signed the deal, which was announced late Sunday.

Under the agreement, Iranian dissidents at Camp Ashraf will be transferred to Camp Liberty, a former U.S. military base near the Baghdad International Airport.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees then will determine refugee status of the dissidents, a necessary step for their resettlement outside Iraq.

The Iraqi government is “exclusively responsible for the safety and security of the residents both during their transfer and in the new location until they leave the country,” Mr. Kobler said.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton praised the deal but said it must have the full support of the dissidents, urging them to work with the U.N. to implement the plan.

The dissidents have not responded to the deal, and a spokesman for the group told The Washington Times on Monday that they are waiting to review the official document.

Camp Ashraf is home to members of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), which the State Department designated a terrorist group in 1997. The dissidents surrendered their weapons in 2003 as part of a cease-fire agreement with U.S. forces.

The camp has come under attack by Iraqi forces several times. In April, the Iraqi army attacked the camp and killed 36 residents, including eight women.

On Sunday, the dissidents said Camp Ashraf had come under rocket fire.

The Iraqi government has agreed to allow the U.N. to station monitors at the new camp. U.S. Embassy officials in Baghdad will visit the camp, and a liaison officer from the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights also will be involved in the process.

The MEK leadership has demanded “minimum assurances,” including round-the-clock monitoring by the U.N. and U.S. until all Camp Ashraf residents have been resettled outside Iraq.

“We hope that [the deal] would officially include the minimum assurances so that it would be acceptable to Ashraf residents,” said Shahin Ghobadi, a Paris-based spokesman for the National Council of Resistance of Iran, a political coalition that includes the MEK.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government had set a Dec. 31 deadline to close Camp Ashraf. Last week, Mr. al-Maliki agreed to a six-month extension of the deadline.

Mr. Kobler said the deal respects Iraq’s sovereignty and its international humanitarian and human rights obligations, and protects the security and rights of the camp’s residents.

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About the Author
Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.

Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.

 

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